Coronavirus latest news: Covid infects mouth, new research finds

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Coronavirus appears to infect parts of the mouth such as the gums, cheeks and salivary glands, researchers say, in a finding which may explain why sufferers lose their taste.

An inability to taste, a dry mouth and ulcer-like sore spots have all emerged as common symptoms in patients with Covid-19.

New research published in the journal Nature Medicine has found cells in the mouth bear the receptor that the virus binds onto when entering cells. A survey of mouth tissue samples taken from patients who had died of the infection found at least half had the virus in their salivary glands.

They also found indications that the coronavirus, technically known as SARS-CoV-2, was replicating inside mouth cells of people with mild or asymptomatic infections.

The research concluded: “Collectively, these data show that the oral cavity is an important site for SARS-CoV-2 infection and implicate saliva as a potential route of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

11:09 AM

‘A hidden pandemic’: lockdown fatigue and vaccine shortage puts Africa at risk of Covid surge

While there is cautious optimism that the coronavirus pandemic is nearing a close in the UK, the worst chapter may be only “just beginning” in Africa.

In some countries, case numbers are ticking upwards with vaccination campaigns in their infancy.

A boy walks past graffiti of the virus in Nairobi – Baz Ratner/Reuters

According to Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance, a lack of testing has masked the true scale of the outbreak of the continent’s “hidden pandemic”.

Dr Alakija warned the region is still “flying blind” as it teeters on the edge of a surge of cases, triggered by the emergence of highly infectious new variants, lockdown fatigue and limited vaccine supplies.

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“Not only are we not out of the woods – this pandemic is not nearly over – but I think in Africa you could almost say it is just beginning,” Dr Alakija told the Telegraph.

Sarah Newey and Anne Gulland explain the pandemic’s trajectory across the continent in this piece.

10:41 AM

‘No immediate’ rollout for vaccine passport after plans prompt outrage

A Cabinet minister said there was no “immediate plan” to make an announcement on the use of vaccine passports and suggested any rollout would not be until after the “whole country has been vaccinated”.

Asked about Tory objections to the possible scheme, the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Times Radio: “I completely understand the reservations that many people have in Parliament and across the country. We’re considering a whole range of things and doing that very carefully.

“We’re looking into the practical issues, the ethical concerns and we’re being guided by the best medical and scientific opinion and we will be bringing forward the outcome of that work in the coming weeks.

“We don’t have an immediate plan to take action. Our focus at the moment is the vaccine rollout – that has to be our priority.”

The language used on Friday morning was markedly more reserved than on Thursday, when the plans caused concern among Tory MPs and publicans who described the proposals as “outrageous” and “not been thought through”.

10:10 AM

Pfizer to start testing jabs on children

Pfizer is the latest vaccine creator to say it will start testing its jabs on children, reports our South Asia Correspondent Ben Farmer.

The first young volunteers have already been given shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, company officials announced Thursday.

The new trial will judge whether the jabs provoke an immune response in children aged six months to 11 years.

Vaccine rollouts have so far focussed on the elderly and most vulnerable to the coronavirus, with children far less likely to be made badly sick by the coronavirus.

But health officials have said that giving jabs to children may eventually be key to stopping the coronavirus circulating in populations. Both the Oxford AstraZeneca and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson jabs are already being tested on children.

09:58 AM

‘No reason to worry’ on UK vaccine supply

Government minister Robert Jenrick said there was “no reason to worry” when it came to UK vaccine supply.

The Communities Secretary was asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain whether all adults would still be offered a jab by July amid the EU vaccine supply row.

Mr Jenrick said: “Absolutely, we are confident we have got the supplies that we need both to meet our mid-April target of vaccinating all the over-50s and those people with clinical vulnerabilities, and the bigger target, which is that every adult at least has had their first jab by the end of July.

“Of course, anyone who has an appointment for a jab, either their first one or second one, there is no need to worry – those appointments will be honoured.”

Pressed on where UK vaccine doses would come from if Brussels did apply an export ban, he added: “We’ve chosen since the start not to discuss our supply chains. We think that’s the right decision.

“We’re getting our vaccines from multiple manufacturers, from all over the world with complex international supply chains – none of them are reliant on any one factory or any one country.

“What I can assure your viewers of is our absolute commitment and confidence that we will be able to deliver on the targets that the Prime Minister has set out, so there is no reason to worry – the vaccine programme will continue and it is going to continue to be a world-leading one.”

09:37 AM

Britons should be ‘prepared for changes’ in vaccine rollout

Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has said Britons should be “prepared for the possibility of changes” in the vaccine rollout as global demand increases, placing pressure on limited supplies.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: “I think people should be prepared for the possibility of changes going forward, because we will see different vaccines coming through, all of them are slightly different from each other and there will be different supplies.

“Having said that, at the moment, the plans remain very much as we already announced.”

09:35 AM

Watch: Robert Jenrick urges Europe not to ‘pull up the drawbridge’ on vaccine supply chains

Here’s the Communities Secretary:

09:06 AM

UK vaccine slowdown due to increased worldwide demand

Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has said the upcoming “slight slowdown” in the vaccine rollout is due to increased demand worldwide.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: “The demand for vaccine is racking up massively faster, so all the different programmes in different countries are really getting going, and so we’re moving into a phase where the rate-limiting step is vaccine supply.

“The other part of it is that the process of making vaccines is enormously complicated, it involves literally dozens if not hundreds of steps, and so getting those supplies going and making sure that all of the vaccine is in good quality, good shape, and good purity if you like, is always going to lead to some delays along the way.

“We’re just in a phase now where that’s accelerating and the supply will be racking up over the coming weeks to meet the enormously rising demand.

“But this is not a complete standstill, it’s just a slight slowdown, and things are still moving forward really fast.”

08:51 AM

UK ‘not that dependant on EU’ for vaccine supplies

Dr Sarah Schiffling, senior lecturer in supply chain management at Liverpool John Moores University, said the UK is “not that dependant on the EU” for vaccine supplies, amid tensions with the bloc.

Speaking on Sky News, she said: “We have a lot of supply of AstraZeneca within the country… we’re not that dependant on the EU for imports of AstraZeneca.

“We have been importing a lot of doses of Pfizer vaccine from the EU, (but) this doesn’t seem to be right, now, in the eye of the European Commission.

“So the blockage of AstraZeneca, we have alternative supplies for that.”

08:37 AM

International vaccine passport ‘out of Government control’

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said the use of vaccine passports internationally could be out of the Government’s hands.

Questioned on Times Radio whether they would be in place for pubs being allowed indoor customers in May, as per the road map, he said: “No, we’re taking time to consider this issue carefully. It is a complex issue.

“There are two angles to it. Of course on the international stage, vaccine certification is not entirely within our control and if our citizens want to travel abroad, we’ll need to ensure that they are able to do so.

“Domestically, there are a range of issues we need to work through, that work is now happening and it will be reporting back later.

“But if we do go down that route, we don’t anticipate it being in the near term.”

08:18 AM

EU chief says AstraZeneca must ‘catch up’ with Europe before supplying other states

The European Commission president has warned AstraZeneca that it must “honour” its vaccine contract with the bloc before exporting doses elsewhere in the world.

Ursula von der Leyen urged “transparency” from other countries, but did not confirm if the EU would bring in tougher export restrictions on coronavirus jabs, amid a row over supplies with the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant.

However, she acknowledged that worldwide supply chains needed to remain “intact” for vaccine production, while some European leaders appeared optimistic that the UK and EU could soon resolve their dispute over supplies.

After a meeting of the European Council on Thursday, Ms von der Leyen said she had “no knowledge” of the UK exporting jabs, while 77 million doses had been exported to 33 countries by the EU so far.

“I think it is clear that the company (AstraZeneca) has to catch up and honour the contract it has with the EU member states before it can engage again in exporting vaccines.”

08:02 AM

Vaccinated NFL players will get ‘extra privileges’

The National Football League (NFL) hopes players, coaches and staff will get vaccinated against Covid-19 ahead of the new season but it will not be mandatory, the league’s chief medical officer Allan Sills said.

The NFL on Thursday sent a memo to all 32 teams ahead of this year’s draft outlining a series of more relaxed protocols if all individuals in the draft room were vaccinated.

Mr Sills said similar regulations would apply once the season begins, with vaccinated individuals receiving extra privileges.

“The NFL and the NFL Players’ Association have no intention of making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory for players, coaches or staff,” Sills told the NFL Network.

“What we are focusing on is education. We want everyone to have the facts, and we believe that this is an important step forward.

“As we spoke about in the draft, vaccinated individuals will have certain privileges and precautions lifted. We’ll continue discussions and go where science leads us on that. We’re seeing a lot of dialogue about vaccination. We hope everyone gets vaccinated.”

07:57 AM

No immediate plans for pub vaccine passports, minister insists

Britain has no immediate plans to use Covid-19 certificates to control entry into pubs and other venues when they are allowed to reopen for indoors trading in May, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said on Friday.

“We are considering a whole range of things and doing that very carefully; we are looking into the practical issues, the ethical concerns, and we are being guided by the best medical and scientific opinion,” he told Times Radio.

“We will be bringing forward the outcome of that work in the coming weeks; we don’t have an immediate plan to take action,” he said, adding that measures wouldn’t be in place by May 17 when restrictions are further eased.

07:52 AM

Australia considering delivering its jabs to Papua New Guinea

Australia is considering diverting Covid-19 inoculations from its vaccination programme to Papua New Guinea (PNG) where the coronavirus is threatening to unleash a humanitarian disaster, a government source said on Friday.

PNG is due to get 588,000 doses of vaccine by June under the Covax initiative to help poorer countries but doubts have arisen about those supplies given new restrictions imposed in producing countries as the virus spreads.

The European Union is implementing tougher vaccine export controls and has yet to respond to an Australian request that it release 1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine that has been contracted to go to Australia, to PNG instead, the source told Reuters.

India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India to meet domestic demand, which will almost certainly delay deliveries to PNG.

There is growing concern that PNG, an island nation of about 10 million people, many living in impoverished, isolated communities, can’t afford to wait.

07:48 AM

Judge orders dementia sufferer should have jab

A judge has ordered that an 83 year old dementia sufferer should have the Covid-19 vaccine despite her son’s objections.

Judge Simon Carr ruled at the Court of Protection in Truro, Cornwall, that the jab was in the best interests of the pensioner.

The woman, who cannot be named, is living in a care home and agreed to her son have Power of Attorney and making decisions on her behalf some time ago, the judge was told.

Her son argued that she should not have the jab as she “had not got that long left anyway”.

He said she should not have to end her life in pain if there were side effects.

The case was brought to court after the woman’s GP thought she should be given the vaccine.

Her son argued that the vaccines had not been properly tested.

But Judge Carr said she had been vaccinated against “flu for around 20 years and ruled it was ‘very much in her best interests to have the vaccine”.

07:37 AM

Rule of six in Wales from tomorrow

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced Wales is to take a further step out of lockdown.

In a statement, he said: “Thanks to a real team effort across Wales, coronavirus cases remain stable. We have the headroom to continue our careful, step-by-step approach to relaxing restrictions. In this thread I’ll outline the next set of changes that will come into effect from tomorrow.

“Our amazing tourism sector will begin to re-open. We’ll start by lifting the stay local rule and enabling self-contained accommodation to open to people living in Wales from the same household or support bubble.

“We’re also changing the rules to enable organised outdoor activities and sports for under-18s to restart and from tomorrow up to six people from two different households can meet outdoors, not including children under 11.

“Stay local will be lifted, and for the next 2 weeks people living in Wales can travel around Wales – this is to help keep the virus under control. We’ll keep this under review and if the public health situation remains positive, travel in and out of Wales will resume 12 April.

“Wales is moving out of alert level four and starting to move into level three. Step-by-step Wales is opening up while we all work together to keep the virus under control. Thank you for everything you’re doing to keep Wales safe.”

07:27 AM

Today’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Friday, Mar 26.

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06:40 AM

PNG faces ‘humanitarian disaster’ amid vaccine export controls

Australia is considering diverting Covid-19 inoculations from its vaccination programme to Papua New Guinea (PNG) where the coronavirus is threatening to unleash a humanitarian disaster, a government source has said.

PNG is due to get 588,000 doses of vaccine by June under the Covax initiative to help poorer countries but doubts have arisen about those supplies given new restrictions imposed in producing countries as the virus spreads.

The European Union is implementing tougher vaccine export controls and has yet to respond to an Australian request that it release 1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine that has been contracted to go to Australia, to PNG instead, the source told Reuters.

India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India to meet domestic demand, which will almost certainly delay deliveries to PNG.

There is growing concern that PNG, an island nation of about 10 million people, many living in impoverished, isolated communities, can’t afford to wait.

“We have a humanitarian disaster unfolding in our backyard,” said the source, who is familiar with the thinking of the government on the issue. The source declined to be identified as he is not authorised to talk to the media.

Australia is still lobbying the EU for the 1 million doses but considering other options, the source said.

PNG, which was administered by Australia before its independence, has recorded more than 4,000 cases of the virus, according to figures released on Thursday. But Australia says that tally vastly underestimates the extent of the crisis as the Pacific country does not do mass testing.

PNG’s biggest hospitals have reported that as many as 80% are coming back positive and Prime Minister James Marape has said the virus has “broken loose”.

04:52 AM

Two care home workers arrested over Covid deaths

Police have arrested two members of staff at a South Devon care home in connection with a Covid-19 outbreak that is believed to have caused multiple deaths.

Nine deaths have been reported at Holmesley Care Home in Sidford since February 25, which are all believed to be coronavirus-related.

A 57-year-old woman from Sidmouth and a 30-year-old man from Exeter have been arrested on suspicion of wilful neglect under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, according to Devon & Cornwall Police.

Both are said to be members of staff at the care home.

Read more: Two care home workers in South Devon arrested over multiple Covid deaths

04:50 AM

Biden sets target of 200 million vaccine doses in first 100 days

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday he was setting a new goal of administering 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in the United States in his first 100 days in office.

His administration initially set a goal of 100 million shots administered in that time period, and met it last week, ahead of schedule. Mr Biden took office on Jan. 20. He will have served 100 days by April 29.

“I know it’s ambitious – twice our original goal. But no other country in the world has even come close,” Mr Biden told reporters at the White House at the opening of a news conference. “I believe we can do it.”

More than 85 million people in the United States had received one shot by midweek this week and more than 46 million people had been fully vaccinated.

The federal government is already on track to exceed 200 million shots shipped more than a week before Biden’s 100th day in office even if it fails to significantly boost U.S. vaccine production.

Read more: Joe Biden’s first press conference: President dodges gaffes in a genteel tea party atmosphere

US President Joe Biden speaks during the first formal press conference of his presidency in the East Room of the White House – EPA

03:47 AM

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